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In defense country, Scott warns of automatic budget cuts and writes Congress

Gov. Rick Scott is weighing in early on the congressional debate over deficit reduction, urging lawmakers to find a way to shield the state from deep cuts in defense spending if they fail to find an alternative to the across-the-board reductions set to take effect on Jan. 2, known as "sequestration."

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Scott says the cuts to the defense budget could lead to 39,000 lost jobs and "may jeopardize the safety of Floridains." He quotes United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a Democrat, cites Center for Regional Analysis study, and urges the Congressional leaders to find non-defense related budget cuts -- such as repealing Obamacare -- rather than go forward with defense reductions. 

"I appreciate the difficulty of these decisions,'' Scott wrote. "I respectfully request your careful consideration of the impacts of the estimated $500 billion in anticipated defense cuts." Download 08.02.2012_Defense_Letter

He noted that Panetta "has called the upcoming defense cuts "unworkable" and "a disaster" and insisted that they will "inflict severe damage to our national defense."  This kind of threat to our defense capabilities and economy must be taken seriously,'' he said.

The debate on Capitol Hill is likely to be settled after the November election as Democrats demand that any plan to shield the military include tax increases on high-wage earners while Republicans are rejecting all calls for higher taxes.

Scott spent Thursday at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County and is conducting a roundtable with defense contractors this afternoon. Defense contractors warn that the impending cuts may force them  to comply with a law that requires them to advise employees 60 days in advance of possible layoffs. That would be four days before the November election.

A letter issued Monday by the U.S Department of Labor, however, challenged that assumption. The guidance letter said the estimated cuts would be speculative and therefore it would be "inappropriate" for employers to send such warning letters 60 days out.

Scott's comments are in line with the comments of several high-ranking Republicans who are using the stand-off over the budget reductions as a way to portray Obama as willing to threaten national security. Democrats, however, note that 22 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee voted for the cuts, as did 18 Democrats, and they should now be willing to consider tax increases to prevent the deep military reductions.

-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.